Sound advice on ear cleaning

Post on 26th January 2017

Listen up, however tempting it is to clear earwax with a cotton wool bud please refrain, for it could damage your hearing and cause infections.

And don’t even think about using hair pins, car keys or toothpicks – as some people do – to tackle a perceived build-up of wax.

New guidance underlines the advice that the ear cleanses itself naturally so we should take heed of the old wives’ tale and not put anything in our ear which is smaller than our elbow!

The risks are that you may cut the ear canal, make a hole in the eardrum, or dislocate delicate hearing bones. Excessive cleaning may also irritate the ear canal, cause infection and can cause even more wax or cerumen to be produced.

There is also the risk of pushing the earwax down and impacting it further into the ear canal which blocks the ear canal and this can lead to pain, itching, ringing or tinnitus, hearing loss or a discharge or an unpleasant odour from the ear.

Earwax is produced by the body to clean, protect and oil the ears. It acts as a self-cleaning agent to keep ears healthy by trapping dirt, dust, and other small matter to the sticky earwax which keeps them from getting further into the ear.

Chewing, jaw motion, and growing skin in the ear canal help to move old earwax from inside the ears to the ear opening where it then flakes off or is washed off during bathing. This process of making wax and pushing the old wax out is continual.

There are times when this process breaks down and there may be a build up of wax which can collect and block, or partly block, the ear canal. Excessive or impacted cerumen affects one in ten children, one in 20 adults, and more than one-third of elderly people.

Sufferers should see their GP if they have symptoms who may advise on waiting to see if the ear cleans itself naturally, carry out irrigation or ear syringing or advise wax softening agents known as cerumenolytics.

For advice on hearing care you can also call into your local Scrivens branch.